(Wikipedia/Amanda Macias/Business Insider)
Over the last two decades or so, armed forces around the world have abandoned their camouflage patterns in favor of a more pixelated, machine-engineered camo, similar to the blocky graphics in the popular online game "Minecraft."
And while it may seem counterintuitive, the digital-print look of the pixelated camos is actually notably more effective than earlier designs that sought to mimic nature.
According to retired US Army Lt. Timonthy R. O'Neill, large blotchy patterns work best for long distances and small patterns work best up close.
Pixelated patterns marry the two ideas together.
As the BBC notes, "close up, the small patches mimic natural patterns on the scale of leaves on a tree, but from farther away, the clusters of squares create a macro texture that blends with branches, trees and shadows."
"Well when I looked at the data I think my observation was something on the order of 'holy crap'," recalled O'Neill to the BBC.
A study commissioned by the Office of Naval Research showed that soldiers wearing the Marine pattern camo (MARPAT) took 2.5 seconds to detect, while soldiers wearing monocolor, or the large, blotchy NATO camo, could be detected in just about one second.
Here's an example of how pixelated camos work in the environment below:
In an armed conflict where the enemy is within visual range, these seconds make all the difference in the world.
However, some pixelated camos have not been as successful.
The US Army's overly ambitious rollout of a pixelated camo (ARPAT) proved too much of a cookie-cutter solution to the various theaters of war US Army soldiers find themselves in.
The UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) adopted by the army in Afghanistan proved a huge mistake, as its lack of brown hues made soldiers stand out starkly in the mostly desert backgrounds.
(Flickr/ The US Army)
Testing has proven time and time again that pixelated camos, as long as they use appropriate colors, are winners.
This lesson was perhaps lost on the Chinese, who unveiled a shocking maritime camo scheme on a variety of armored vehicles and missile batteries in their September 3, 2015, military parade.
The blue pixelated camo makes little sense for land-combat vehicles, and even an amphibious vehicle would lose its need for a bright blue camo scheme as soon as it left the water.
Perhaps the Chinese chose the color scheme to signal a rhetorical shift in the focus of their armed forces to naval strength.
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